— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked the CBO to score the latest Obamacare repeal bill, McConnell’s office confirmed to POLITICO’s Jennifer Haberkorn. The nod from leadership would speed up CBO’s consideration of the bill, a needed step if it has a shot at passage before the end of the month.
Sen. Lindsey Graham on Thursday applauded McConnell for praising the GOP’s last-ditch ACA repeal bill during the closed-door Republican lunch. “Thank you for what you said today,” Graham said on the Senate floor. “Thank you for being willing to push this forward.”
The South Carolina Republican called on President Donald Trump to take action, too. “I know you’re busy with hurricanes and North Korea,” Graham said. “You’re going to have to get on the phone, you’re going to have to solve this.”
BUT THE BILL IS STILL A VERY LONG SHOT — Reconciliation expires in 16 days. Even if (1) Republicans get behind the bill, and (2) the CBO score is OK and (3) the parliamentarian signs off on the bill, Democrats would probably be under intense pressure to stall it. They could hold up the bill while its clock ticked during vote-a-rama, the unlimited amendment process, Jen points out. Could Democrats force amendment votes for three, four or five days straight?
TRUMP RECEPTIVE TO BIPARTISAN FIX TO OBAMACARE — The president, exasperated by the failed Obamacare repeal effort, feels that two weeks of talks with Democrats have yielded far more action — and he’s signaled that he wants those talks to continue. A person familiar with Wednesday night’s meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer described it as “jovial” and far more pleasant than meetings with GOP leaders.
The president also had productive talks with moderate Democrats and Republicans pitching a fix for Obamacare, POLITICO’s Rachael Bade and Josh Dawsey report. More.
MAYBE DEMOCRATS SHOULD CALL MEDICARE-FOR-ALL ‘REPEAL-AND-REPLACE’ — Upon hearing that the stabilization package had bipartisan support, the president had one question for moderate Democrats and Republicans: “Can I call it ‘repeal and replace’?”
“You can call it whatever you want, Mr. President,” a Democratic lawmaker told Trump, eliciting laughter throughout the room. The president reportedly loved that response.
FIRST IN PULSE: New Democrat Coalition urge Senate HELP to take up bipartisan reforms. Thirty-five House members signed today’s letter, which pushes a set of proposals — like guaranteeing cost-sharing payments and dedicating funds for reinsurance — that largely line up with the ideas that Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray have discussed the past two weeks.
MEANWHILE: GOP LEADERS FEEL BETRAYED BY TRUMP’s DEALING WITH DEMS — Republicans, including some of Trump’s presidential rivals, are now staring at one of their worst fears: that the ideologically nebulous president is shifting toward the center, POLITICO’s Burgess Everett, Rachael and Josh report.
McCain: ‘It’s a process I’ve never seen before.’ “He was frustrated that a Republican majority has not achieved the goals he wants to,” the Arizona Republican ruefully observed. “So he is spending time with, as he calls them, Chuck and Nancy.”
… Some Republicans are perplexed that Trump is prioritizing a DACA deal with Democrats over one last shot at Obamacare, which can be repealed on party lines for just two more weeks. “We’ve got six months to deal with DACA. We’ve got  days to deal with this,” said Graham. More for Pros.
WHAT VOTERS ACTUALLY WANT — According to a new POLITICO/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll, most Republican voters still do want Congress to prioritize Obamacare repeal, naming it their top priority.
Fifty-three percent of Republican respondents said taking action to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act should be an “extremely important priority,” while another 26 percent of Republicans said it should be “very important.” Only 16 percent of Republicans said ACA repeal should not be a priority for Congress. See story.
But other voters overwhelmingly want Congress to move on from Obamacare. Among Democrats, 60 percent say repeal-and-replace should not be a priority.
… Fifty-one percent of Democrats and 36 percent of independents said drug price reform was “extremely important,” making it the most urgent priority for those groups. According to Harvard’s Bob Blendon, who designed the survey with POLITICO, the drug price polling should be a signal to Democrats eying campaigns in 2018 and 2020. “There’s been a great deal of focus on the number of prominent Democrats who have endorsed Medicare for All” or other single-payer plans, he said. “But the next big issue for them should be the drug price issue.” See poll.
TOM PRICE RAMPING UP ACTION ON OPIOIDS — The HHS secretary on Thursday appeared at a community health center in New Hampshire — one of the states hardest-hit by the opioid crisis — with HRSA chief George Sigounas to announce $200 million in new…